CHARLOTTE, NC (July 7, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (7-4-4) on Saturday night return to Ramblewood Stadium to face the Wilmington Hammerheads (5-5-5) in the first match of a two-week home stand. This also will be the second of three meetings this season between the Independence and Hammerheads, as the clubs battled to a 1-1 draw back on May 10 in Wilmington. They will meet again in Charlotte on Aug. 13.
In the first meeting, the Hammerheads jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute off a penalty kick taken by defender Bruno Perone. They had a chance to double the advantage in the 22nd minute, but Independence defender Patrick Slogic dug out an amazing save, clearing the ball off the goal line. The Independence then answered back with a goal of their own from Brian Brown in the 43rd minute. The chance was created off a corner kick, as Hammerheads keeper John Smits made an initial save that pushed the ball in Brown’s direction to set up the rebound shot.
In the second half both teams came out strong with ample scoring opportunities. In the 79th minute the Independence almost took the lead off a through ball played to Enzo Martinez, whose shot was saved by the foot of Smits. In the final minutes of the match the Hammerheads sent in many crosses, shots and corners, but all were punched away or scooped up by keeper Cody Mizell.
“There aren’t a whole lot of games which aren’t tight and Wilmington is certainly a very good team this year and we expect it to be a hard game,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “They’re capable of playing well and putting us under pressure. It’s one of those days where we have to be good moving the ball and if we can do that on our field we feel like we can open any team up within our league, them included. But they also will put us to the test of making sure we’re good.”
The Hammerheads enter Charlotte on the heels of a dominant 3-0 win over Toronto FC II, featuring goals from Casey Townsend, Austin Martzand Logan Miller. All three tallies were assisted by Stefan Defregger.
“Their central midfield is very good with (Mael) Corboz and Miller,” said Jeffries. “They’re really technical, good passers, good playmakers out of the middle of the field and that gives us something to have to work against. Then up front they have a bunch of different options from Kyle Parker, a UNCC player, and Casey Townsend got a goal for them last game, Qudus Lawal, and Martz has been really good for them wide, giving them a really athletic, dynamic presence.”
The Independence, meanwhile, are coming off a two-match road trip in which they earned four of six points. A 3-1 come-from-behind victory at the Harrisburg City Islanders on June 25 was followed by a 1-1 draw at Orlando City B on July 2. Brown and Lewis Hilton recorded one goal and one assist each across the two games, while David Estrada and Martinez added tallies in Harrisburg. Brown and Martinez are now tied withJorge Herrera for a team-high 10 points each.
“We’ve played pretty well, we’ve been good defensively really in both of those games so that’s a positive,” said Jeffries. “We feel like in both those games that there were stretches that we were the dominant team, that we were able to push the game even on the road and that’s not easy to do. So the mentality of the group is very good, very confident as we’re getting back home. But the added pressure for the Wilmington game comes from where we both are in the standings. We both want to move up the table.”
Kickoff between the Independence and Hammerheads is scheduled for 7:00pm ET on Saturday, July 9, at Ramblewood Stadium.